The NHL will begin accepting bids for expansion in July, commissioner Gary Bettman announced Wednesday.
“The fact that we are beginning this process does not necessarily mean that any expansion teams will be granted as a result of this process,” Bettman said in a statement.
The most likely candidates for expansion are Las Vegas, Quebec City and Seattle. A second Toronto-area team and a Milwaukee-based franchise are less likely options. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league also received interest from Kansas City and Portland.
Construction is ongoing on a new arena in Las Vegas and Bettman was impressed by the season ticket drive launched by potential franchise owner William Foley. An NHL team would be the city's first major professional sports franchise.
Quebec's 18,000-seat Videotron Centre will open this fall to replace the aging Pepsi Coliseum. The city has been without an NHL team since the Quebec Nordiques relocated to Denver and became the Colorado Avalanche in 1995.
The KeyArena in Seattle has not hosted a major professional franchise since the NBA's SuperSonics departed for Oklahoma City in 2008. In April, developers reportedly filed a request to explore building a new arena in suburban Tukwila. A separate proposal to build an arena in Seattle near CenturyLink Field and Safeco Field received environmental approval last month.
- Dan Gartland